The 85-year-old Baltimore Evening Sun, once described as "the rollicking son of the staid old lady, the morning Sun," will cease publication Sept. 15, the publisher said yesterday.
The evening paper's circulation has fallen by 100,000 copies since 1987, the victim of changing reader habits, the company said. But the loss will be offset by a thorough redesign and expansion of the morning Sun, which has been enjoying strong circulation gains, said Mary Junck, publisher and chief executive officer of The Baltimore Sun Co. "It was an extremely difficult decision to make, although I think many people in the community have expected it for some time," she said.
"Many great journalists, such as H. L. Mencken and William Manchester, worked at The Evening Sun. It's touched the lives of countless Marylanders and helped shape our community. But a consumer shift to morning papers, which has claimed many other evening newspapers across the country . . . led us to our decision," Ms. Junck said.
The Evening Sun's closure will improve the company's financial performance "modestly" after 1996, she said.
The move will claim the jobs of fewer than 50 newsroom and production employees, Ms. Junck said. The staff reductions would be accomplished mostly through buyouts, attrition and reassignment.
Editorial personnel on the morning and evening newspapers were combined in a 1992 reorganization and buyout program that reduced the payroll by 300 employees.
That merger, which ended 72 years of lively news competition between the two papers, means few jobs today are exclusively Evening Sun positions.
In the newsroom on Calvert Street yesterday, editors and reporters learned of the closing from Editor John S. Carroll. He said it would be a week before he could answer their questions about how the closure would affect individuals.
"I realize this causes a lot of anxiety for everyone," he said. "Obviously these are very sensitive issues, and I would rather do it one-on-one."
Mr. Carroll did assure them that "nobody's going to be laid off in the newsroom. If you're a columnist and your column is discontinued, you will not lose your job. You will have a place here."
Mr. Carroll thanked the handful of editors who have worked to put out the evening paper in the years since 1992. Theirs was "a hard and not terribly rewarding job," he said. "They've done it with dedication and deserve the thanks of all of us."
Looking to the future, he said he believed The Sun "can succeed in producing a truly first-class newspaper if we devote all of our resources and energies to a single paper."
The closure will have no effect on reporting efforts by the Sun's foreign, national or local news operations. "We intend to do more in-depth treatment [of the news] rather than less," Mr. Carroll said.
Beginning Sept. 18, the money saved by closing The Evening Sun will be reinvested to produce a morning paper Monday through Friday with 11 additional pages over the course of a week. Three more pages will be reallocated from the Saturday and Sunday papers to the weekday Sun, the company said.
Expanded business section
Some of the added space will be used for expanded business news. Now combined with sports in a single section on weekdays, financial news will get its own free-standing section Tuesday through Friday.
The Maryland section also will get more space for local news for readers in Baltimore and in Baltimore and Harford counties.
Surveys, focus groups, and discussions involving more than 7,000 Sun readers and others have led to design and content changes the company believes will help readers use their reading time more efficiently.
The new Sun will feature better indexing and more informative use of headlines to help readers decide "what to read and what to skip," Mr. Carroll said. Stories will be printed in an easier-to-read typeface, and headlines will appear in a style used by The Sun between 1920 and 1970. New page designs will be reminiscent of the 1940s.
Readers will get more comics than found in either paper now, but the least popular strips from both papers will be dropped.
Other changes will include an enhanced weather map in color; an improved weekly entertainment guide; redesigned classified ad pages; and a later press start, allowing more people to get later news and sports scores.
Job losses among the newspapers' 1,700 employees will affect mostly newsroom personnel, but shift and hour reductions will also affect workers in the mailroom, transportation and circulation departments. Details must be negotiated with union representatives. "We hope to avoid layoffs," Ms. Junck said.
Mr. Carroll said some columnists and features that appear now only in The Evening Sun will be integrated into the morning paper, "but how that will shake out, I'm not prepared to say."
As of March 31, the most recent report, The Evening Sun's daily circulation was 86,360, down by 100,000 since 1987.